Daryl Dorsey was in eighth grade when an agriculture teacher from Atwater High School, Dave Gossman, came to talk to his class about the National Future Farmers of America Organization.
He was impressed by the opportunities available in the group and, he said, when he heard about the successes of prior FFA students, he was inspired to sign up. He didn’t know it then, but joining the program would give him a “once in a lifetime trip,” he said.
Dorsey, now 17, will be among a group of students from Atwater and Hilmar who will leave Saturday for Indianapolis to compete at the National FFA Convention and Expo.
Dorsey and three teammates won the state championship in Milk Quality and Dairy Products and will now face teams from 40 other states.
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“I’m looking forward to competing because we’ve never won the national contest,” Dorsey said. “I look forward to making history and being the first team to win nationals.”
FFA is an organization for students who want to learn about or have a career in farm production. FFA programs are at high schools all over the country, with Atwater High School having the largest single-school program in the nation, according to Gossman.
I’m looking forward to competing because we’ve never won the national contest. I look forward to making history and being the first team to win nationals.
Daryl Dorsey, 17-year old in Atwater High School’s FFA program
Nine Atwater students will go to Indianapolis, including teams competing in Marketing Plan presentation and Extemporaneous Speaking. Four students from Hilmar High School will compete in Dairy Cattle Judging.
“Our students are looking forward to compete at the national level and represent California,” said Marc Coleman, an FFA team adviser at Hilmar High School. “They’re very proud to be state champions in California.”
Students will participate in a series of tests, Gossman said. For instance, the Milk Quality and Dairy Team will taste milk and determine flavors, identify and characterize cheeses, test the level of bacterial growth in milk and have written exams.
“They had to be committed,” Gossman said. “They’re doing what people in food safety do.”
All participants will create presentations or speeches with their teams for the judges as well, Gossman said.
The Hilmar High School team, Coleman said, will characterize cattle and grade them on which would be most beneficial for production, as well as undergo written exams.
Julianna Dailey, member of the Milk Quality and Dairy Team, said she likes being part of the FFA program because she has gained knowledge of the dairy industry. Being in the program, she said, has has helped her in “real life,” especially when it comes to public speaking.
“It’s made such an impact on my life,” the 17-year-old said. “It’s the best decision of my high school career.”
It’s made such an impact on my life. It’s the best decision of my high school career.
Julianna Dailey, 17-year-old in Atwater High School’s FFA program
Dailey said she is confident in her team, because they have all been studying and preparing for months in and outside of school. They spend lunchtime practicing experiments to find bacterial growth or contamination in milk.
“After months of prep, it would be great for it to pay off,” Dailey said. “I think we’re really strong as a team.”
If it were not for Gossman’s continued push and motto of “no excuses,” Dailey said, their team wouldn’t have been as prepared or made it this far.
“We’re determined at getting first (place),” she said.
After the convention, which runs Oct. 19-22, the students will travel to Washington, D.C., to see monuments and have a tour of the White House, Gossman said.
“A first-class accomplishment deserves a first-class reward,” Gossman said.
Gossman said students in FFA incorporate math, chemistry and other sciences into what they do. One of the biggest misconceptions about FFA, Gossman said, is it’s only for students with agriculture or dairy backgrounds who want to make a career out it. Anybody can join and benefit from the knowledge they will acquire, he said.
“There’s so many components that go into FFA and you’ll never know what you will get out of it,” Dailey said. “It’s most impactful for me as a person.”